Paola Rangel is currently based in the Bay Area working as a Senior Product Designer at LinkedIn. She earned her MFA in Interaction Design at SVA in May 2017. She is extremely passionate about designing educational experiences for children. Outside of work, Paola enjoys exercising in the morning, starting her day with a big cup of good coffee, illustrating, painting, experimenting with Arduino, and most importantly, spending time with her 2-year-old daughter. During our chat, we talked about her journey to become a Senior Product Designer, her life at LinkedIn, and advice she would share with current students in the program.
Tell me a little about your journey before becoming a Senior Product Designer at LinkedIn
After graduating from SVA, I had the opportunity to work at Verizon Innovation Lab. There, I had the chance to connect with someone who was an alumnus of SVA’s MFA IxD and had founded Play Lab, an innovative educational organization that helps create magical learning experiences for children. At that time, they needed one more designer and they contacted me because, during my time at SVA, almost all of my projects, research, and exploration were around educational experiences for kids. Before COVID-19, we held a lot of workshops in nature museums and schools and it was going well but when the pandemic hit, things were moving relatively slow and I decided to move to the Bay Area to work for LinkedIn.
Why did you decide to be part of LinkedIn?
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason because my goal has been changing a little bit since graduating from SVA. When I was about to graduate and had to apply for jobs, I was conscious about my visa situation and its constraints so I decided not to get into the education field because it was difficult to meet the visa requirements. That was why I chose Verizon Innovation lab and now, I am at LinkedIn, which are in totally different industries. At this point in my life, my goal is to continue to grow as a designer and be a senior product designer, constantly asking myself what is next for me. I genuinely love working at LinkedIn. It is truly an amazing company and I love my team. I wish to spend a good time working here and grow as much as I can as a designer.
Tell me about your daily tasks at LinkedIn.
I am currently the Senior Product Designer for Linkedin’s Identity team. Multiple projects are going on but my main focus is designing users' LinkedIn profile experience. My responsibility also includes understanding business requirements for strategic purposes and eventually taking them into design solutions while communicating with other senior and junior product designers. There are so many things happening every day so my daily tasks are always different. In terms of personal tasks, I love waking up early to exercise and starting my day with a big cup of coffee.
What advice do you have for students who are currently in the MFA IxD program?
My advice to current students in the program is to not be afraid of anything! Enjoy your time in the program and make sure you explore all your crazy ideas. Put all your energy into implementing your out-of-the-box ideas because this is the only time and the perfect place to experiment. Especially when you are starting to think about your thesis, you have to remember why you enrolled in the program in the first place and remember that this is the only place you have the freedom to go crazy with your ideas. I remember when I was working on my thesis, my classmates all started with limitless ideas but suddenly, we started to be afraid due to time constraints, lack of audience support, and thus we became more realistic and did not pursue the amazing crazy idea we had originally planned. Now that I am working, I realize that I always have to follow business guidelines but looking back I realize I had all the freedom to explore so I would highly encourage all the current students to go crazy with your projects.
What was your favorite class during your time in SVA’s MFA Interaction Design?
I had a lot of favorite classes but my absolute favorite is Eric Forman’s The Fundamentals of Physical Computing class. For my final project, I designed a music board for kids. It is essentially a pentagram where children can learn how to write and read music based on the sound of each note. I had an amazing experience in this class because it made me realize how much I love education and designing for kids. It was an eye-opening experience for me as a designer because I learned so much about myself.